The Spiritual World: Our final home; The theater of the Judgment
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, ye may be also." (John xiv. 2, 3)
Before proceeding to discuss the questions of the resurrection, the judgment, and other stupendous effects of the second coming, it is necessary to a rational knowledge of their cause and nature to get a distinct and true idea of the spiritual world. All the doctrines and theories of the Consummated Age concerning these events have been obscure, conflicting, and unsatisfactory for the lack of this knowledge. They have been regarded wholly from the side of appearances, and the most potent causes of these grand events have been entirely ignored. Under such circumstances it would be impossible to come to just and rational conclusions. Half truths, and especially the half which consists of appearances, are always misleading. It is impossible to understand any question which involves the action of spiritual and natural forces without some knowledge of both. The same conditions are necessary that are requisite in understanding spiritual truths expressed in natural language, both sides must be seen and accurately discriminated.
The spiritual world must be the theatre of causes. The Lord came from it when He made His first Advent, and He returned to it. The inevitable questions which spring to the lips are, "Whither goest Thou ?" He declares that He is going to prepare a place for us in the Father's house, and that He will come again and receive us unto Himself. Where is the Father's House? What is the nature of the world in which the Lord dwells? These are questions which must be answered before we can get any true knowledge of the way to our final home, and what it will be when we find it.
The innumerable company of human beings who have been born upon the earth and have passed away from it, have, as most Christians believe, entered into it. That must, therefore, be the most populous world. Our fathers and mothers, and friends, and the multitude of whom we know something from history, are there. Where are they? what are they doing? what are the conditions of their life? what are their relations to us? These are questions which have been asked, and which are now asked with more emphasis than ever. They are questions which everyone who has any spiritual life must ask, and they are questions to which no consistent and rational answer was given by the first Christian Age. The apostles did not give it, the fathers did not give it, and the wisest men who now teach the doctrines of the Consummated Age, do not, and acknowledge that they cannot, give it. Such is the nature of the human mind that it can only be given by one who has been consciously admitted into the spiritual world, and knew that they were in it, and could discriminate between it and this. Swedenborg is perfectly logical in claiming to have seen and heard, not in a state of vision or trance, while his natural senses were closed, but while they were open, what he has said about the spiritual world. He claims to have been consciously in both worlds at the same time; to have been in the spirit and in the body. If this were so, there could be no illusion. He could see the spiritual and the material at the same time, and from this point of view he could discern their differences and their relations. Whether his claims be true or not, as I have said before, must be determined by the rationality of his disclosures, and their consistency with revealed truth, and the wants of people. One thing is certain, in gaining his knowledge of the spiritual world he never violates a law of the human mind, or asks for conditions which were not essential to the work he claims to have performed.
The disclosures which Swedenborg has made concerning the spiritual world, its relations to this world, and the conditions of human life there, are not only consistent with themselves and with Revelation, but they throw a flood of light upon the Scriptures, and fully meet one of the deepest wants of the human race. They are essential to any further progress in the knowledge of our eternal home. A more particular examination of the subject will show the great need of such knowledge, how fully Swedenborg has supplied it, and its important bearings upon the Second Coming of the Lord.
The belief in a life after the death of the body has prevailed in all ages and in all conditions. The most ignorant as well as the most enlightened look forward to an existence beyond the grave either with hope or fear. The ideas which have prevailed concerning the forms which people assume when they have cast aside the material body, their occupations and relations to each other, and the sources of their joys and sorrows, vary according to the culture of the people, from the wildest and most fantastic of the savage nations, to the clearest conceptions formed by true knowledge.
In the Consummated Age, the ideas which have prevailed about the spiritual world, and the conditions of human life in it, have been vague, conflicting, and unsatisfactory. It was a great step from the unbelief engendered by the sensuous nature of the Jewish, mind to the acceptance of the fact that the spirit has an existence distinct from the body, and lives in a spiritual world; but the people of that age have never passed much beyond the acknowledgment of the fact. There have been many theories and speculations about the origin, nature, and employments of the angels, the happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked; but little more is regarded as established than the general conclusion that the good are happy and the wicked are miserable. So vague, undefined, and barren of detail have been the notions of Christians; so little have they learned from the Word in which it is claimed that "life and immortality are brought to light," that the general conclusion of the Christian world is that the Lord did not intend that people should have any definite knowledge of the life after death, and that it is even wrong to seek for it. It is the general opinion that nothing certain can be known concerning it, and that we must wait until we pass through the gates of death before we can obtain any certain knowledge of the hereafter.
The ideas about the nature of spirit have greatly tended to produce this inconclusive result. According to the common idea, spirit is destitute of substance and form. It is a force, or a vital principle; a substanceless shadow of the real nature of which nothing can be predicated but existence. It cannot, therefore, be an object of distinct and related thought. It is impossible to conceive that it sustains relations and has modes of action. This conception of spirit puts it beyond the reach of definition and knowledge, and when carried to its logical conclusions, beyond existence, even. That which has no substance and form can have no existence, for existence, in its very nature, is some being or thing which stands forth in substantial form distinct from any other being or thing.
The doctrines of the New Age, as stated in the writings of Swedenborg, present the subject in a totally different manner. They set out from what must be regarded as an axiom, that the Lord, who is the Creator, the cause of all causes, must be the most real and substantial being in the universe, and that substantiality and form and motion, and nice distinction of quality and relation, must increase in excellence as they approach the cause of all causes and effects, the Former of all forms, the substance of all substances. It is a logical conclusion from these premises that the spiritual world must be a more distinct and substantial world than the material, and more complete and varied in the forms which compose it. Its substances must be of a purer nature; they must be capable of assuming a greater variety of more beautiful forms; its forces must be more powerful, and act with more precision than material forces. Forms organized of those substances must be more beautiful, and capable of receiving a higher degree of the Divine life which lives in and moves the whole universe to action. All the conditions of life in that world must possess an excellence corresponding to the substances which are the recipients of life, and which condition it. These are logical conclusions from premises which all Christians admit.
In accordance with these principles, the doctrines of the New Age teach that there is a spiritual world entirely distinct from and above the material world, as man's spirit is distinct from and above the body. By above I do not mean over it in space, but superior to it in all the qualities of a world.
There are many evidences of the existence of a spiritual world, or, more properly, of a spiritual universe - for it includes suns, and systems of suns, as well as earths - which the limits of these chapters will not allow me to notice. It is sufficient for my present purpose to gain some logical ground to stand upon to show that the very nature of the Lord, and the existence of a material world, demand a spiritual world. Having, therefore, gained a place to stand in a spiritual world, let us consider what kind of world it is.
1. First, it is a world or universe in the true and fullest sense of the meaning of the word "world." "In external appearance it is altogether like the material world; land, mountains, hills, valleys, plains, fields, lakes, rivers, and springs, and so all things belonging to the mineral kingdom, appear there as in the natural world. In like manner paradises, gardens, groves, forests, containing trees and shrubs of every kind, with their fruits and seed, plants, flowers, grasses, and, in a word, all things which belong to the vegetable kingdom. Animals appear there also, and birds and fishes of every kind, and, therefore, everything that belongs to the animal kingdom. The spiritual universe is precisely similar in general form to the material universe. There are sun, moon, and stars, clouds and atmospheres of various kinds as there are in this world. The inhabitants of the spiritual world breathe a spiritual atmosphere, and see by means of a spiritual ether, as we do by means of material ether. In respect to form, the relations of one object to another, and to the general appearance of all things, is so similar to this world that those who pass into it do not know, at first, from the difference of their surroundings, that they have passed from one world into another."
This, I know, is entirely contrary to common opinion. One of the first objections to this doctrine of the spiritual world is that it is nothing more than materialism. People come to this conclusion from their erroneous ideas of the essential qualities of spirit, and of the difference between matter and spirit. People suppose they gain a true idea of spirit by denying to it all the properties of matter, even those of substance and form. But instead of gaining an idea of spirit by this method, they lose all idea of everything. There cannot be a substance without a form; and substance and form are essential to existence. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of any being or thing without a form. To say that there is a spiritual world, and to deny to it all the forms and objects which constitute a world, is to say and to unsay at the same time. To conceive of happiness without any organized forms, modes of action, or definite relations to other forms is to attempt to conceive of the inconceivable, and to suppose that there can be effects without any cause. This is as absurd as it would be to imagine that we could have the pleasures of taste without any organs of taste, or any substances to act upon them; or that we could enjoy the pleasures of sight without eyes, or light. In a word, the prevalent notions concerning the spirit and the spiritual world take away all the known conditions of happiness or misery, and then imagine man to be supremely blessed, or to suffer unutterable torments.
To render the confusion and absurdity still worse, that is practically accepted which is denied in doctrine. Hell has been pictured in a most terrible realism. It has been set forth as a lake of material fire, on whose scorching billows the wicked spirits are tossed and tormented, but never consumed. While, on the other hand, the righteous find their happiness in surrounding the throne of God and glorifying Him in everlasting song. But how could substanceless and formless essences, if such a thing were possible, surround a formless throne and praise an infinite and formless spirit? What kind of songs could a formless spirit sing? The nature of the human mind compels people to give form and modes of action and relations to spiritual beings, while the common doctrine denies that they have or can have any. In this way the mind is brought into a state of conflict and doubt, and the result is a formal assent and a practical disbelief in the real existence of a spiritual world. The doctrines of the New Age, on the contrary, are, to say the least, logical and true to themselves, and demand nothing contradictory or contrary to the nature of things.
2. Again: The doctrine that the spiritual world in general appearances is like the material world, or, to put it more correctly, that this world is like the spiritual world, accords with all the laws of the creation, so far as we have any knowledge of them.
The spiritual world being nearer the Lord, the first cause is pre-eminently the world of causes in its relations to the material world. All material forms are cast into the mold of spiritual forms. Let us think of this matter a moment. There is no power in the ground, in a ploughed field, to form itself into the beautiful organizations of grass, wheat, and corn. There is no power in the dead mould, in water or gas, light or heat, to select from their gross elements the fine substances which enter into the composition of the plant and weave them into the delicate web of the rose and lily, and to create the various fruits which support animal life. Whence comes this wonderful power which creates the animal and vegetable kingdoms out of the dust of the ground? We say that spiritual forces are everywhere present in the material world, as a personís spirit is everywhere present in the world of their body, working these miracles of beauty and use. We say that spiritual forms are creating material forms in their own likeness, weaving garments out of the purer substances of nature with which they clothe themselves. The heat and light of the sun are only the fires in which material substances are brought into such a state that the finer spiritual forces can use them, as we melt the metals in a furnace that they may run into molds and assume the form of our ideas. We have examples of this law of creation in ourselves. and in every organized form. There is no power in the food we eat to organize itself into the organs which compose the human form. In what loom and by whose skilful fingers, and according to what pattern, are they woven? The spirit weaves them into its own image. The body is in the human form because the spirit which creates it is. People performs all their works in shaping material substances to their will according to this law and in this order. They do everything spiritually before they do it naturally. The model according to which every person works is spiritual. The artist paints a picture in their mind before they paint it on canvas. The mechanic makes a garment, constructs an engine, builds a house mentally before her or she does it materially. This is a universal law of human action. The domestic cannot sweep a room, the carpenter cannot drive a nail, no one can take a step, or lift a finger, until it is done spiritually.
In affirming, therefore, that the material world is created from the spiritual world and cast into the mold of its forms, Swedenborg only states a universal law of creation, a Divine method, from which, so far as we have any knowledge, the Lord never departs. We have reasons founded in the nature of things, and in all the methods of the Divine order, therefore, for the belief that the spiritual world is a substantial world, and full of all the objects which constitute a world. The objects in its three kingdoms are similar to those in the three kingdoms of this world, because all material forms are made after spiritual models.
3. There is another rational ground for this doctrine worthy of our consideration. So far as we know, excellence of state and condition increases with the increase of the number, variety, and perfection of the forms which compose it. For example: the power of this world to minister to human happiness depends upon the variety and excellence of the objects which compose and adorn it. This is clearly seen by the difference between a desert of sand and a luxuriant and highly-cultivated field; or in the still stronger contrast between the ocean and the land. A new plant adds to the beauty of a garden. Mountains and hills and valleys, rocks and trees, lakes and streams, make up the beauty of a landscape. In animal life, perfection and the power of enjoyment increase with the variety and perfection of the organs. Think of the capacity of an oyster or jellyfish for happiness compared with a finely-organized human being! The supreme glory, and superiority of human beings to gain happiness from innumerable things consists in the variety and perfection of their organism. A person who has no eyes is shut out from a whole world of instrumentalities for happiness. Destroy their hearing and they are shut out from another world. Imagine a human being without any senses, and they would have no more capacity for enjoyment than a stone.
The theories and dogmas which generally prevail concerning the spirit, and the spiritual world, lead to vagueness and unsubstantiality. They make the spirit a simple force or a shadow; they vacate the spiritual world of all substances and distinct forms, and consequently they make it a barren world. They take away from it all, or nearly all, known means of happiness. Suppose it does not possess any of the forms which constitute this world. Suppose it has no mountains, hills, valleys, no earth, no water, no atmosphere, no sun or stars. Would it be a beautiful home to dwell in forever? No; it is a void compared with which Sahara would be a paradise. All the conditions of happiness, so far as we have any knowledge of them, are taken away.
It is also directly contrary to all the Lord's methods of accomplishing His purposes of good to is, so far as we know anything about them. So far as we know, the Lord creates a form to be the recipient of His life, and the more varied and complex and excellent the form, the more varied and greater our capacity for happiness. The more excellent the organism, the more varied and excellent the forms in which the Lord can come to people and bless them.
We do not see how people can come to any other conclusion than that the spiritual world in which they are to live forever must possess all the elements and means of happiness in much greater abundance and excellence than this world, where they remain but a moment compared with his whole existence. Accordingly, the doctrines of the New Age declare that, while the spiritual world in its general features resembles this, it immeasurably surpasses it in the number, variety, beauty, grandeur, and excellence of the forms which compose it. Reasoning from the law of analogy and nature of things, let us notice some of the conclusions to which we are logically lead.
As the spiritual world is composed of substances distinctly higher in degree and correspondingly pure and more mobile and sensitive to the inflowing Divine and creative forces, the resulting effects would necessarily possess a superior excellence. A greater number and variety of forms in the three spiritual kingdoms could be created. We know that what the Lord can create out of any given piece of ground depends upon the elements contained in it. Wheat will not grow in a soil which does not contain the elements which enter into it. The richer the soil in organic elements the greater, other things being equal, the products which can be created out of it. Suppose them to be indefinitely increased in excellence and variety, and to come, more fully under the power of creative forces, and we must logically conclude that there would be a corresponding increase in the variety and excellence of the objects which would result from such conditions. We infer, therefore, that what we call the objects of nature here, but which are the objects of spirit there, must far surpass those in this world. There must be precious stones which exceed in brilliancy the diamond, the ruby, and emerald, as much as they exceed coarse pebbles of granite and sandstone. There must be flowers shining with an inward light, glowing with the most lovely colors, molded into the most elegant forms, and sending forth the most exquisite fragrance. There must be many varieties which could not be formed out of gross material elements. So we might go on and show that every kingdom in the spiritual world must possess objects which correspond in number and excellence to the nature of that world.
It may be said that we do not know anything about it. I believe we do. But that is not the question we are now considering. The question is, to what conclusions are we logically, and, I may say, inevitably led by our premises. If it is said there is nothing objective to the beings who dwell in the spiritual world, then I can come to no other conclusion than that it is a world only in name. If it is said that the objects are not as numerous and in as great variety, then I cannot stop short of the conclusion that it is not so well adapted to human happiness as this world. Every step in the direction of depriving it of form and substance degrades it. But to proceed with our argument: If spiritual substance possesses more excellent qualities than matter; if it is purer and yields more readily to the creative forces which flow into it, the forms which are created by them must be more nicely and exquisitely finished; their lines must be finer and more beautiful, and every spiritual object must be more sharply discriminated from every other. As we go towards excellence we come into the region of individuality, of nice distinctions. The spiritual world, therefore, instead of being vague, shadowy, spectral, undefined, and empty, must be the realm of distinctness. Every object must appear more clear to every sense; it must be easier to distinguish one plant or animal from another than it is in this world.
There are two other causes which would necessitate this distinctness of form. The human senses would necessarily be much more delicate and acute. The power of perceiving the forms of objects and of learning their qualities from our sensations is wholly spiritual even in this world. The spiritual senses are clothed with a garment of material flesh, to enable them to come in contact with coarse and hard material forms. How fine and delicate they must be, therefore, when divested of this covering! The difference must be greater than that which exists between a gloved and ungloved hand.
The second cause of increased distinctness of every object in the spiritual world is increase of light. A spiritual sun must have a corresponding excellence and power to a spiritual earth. The light, therefore, must be of intense brightness, and every object must shine in it so clearly that, compared with it, the objects in this world would be in obscurity in the brightest day. What pure and clear and lovely colors must clothe and adorn the various heavenly forms! How every gem must sparkle and glow in that heavenly light! Imagine a diamond as much purer in substance than a material diamond, as that is purer than a pebble of granite, radiating a light compared with which the brightest splendors of the sun of this world is but a shadow, and then suppose the sense of sight to have a corresponding increase in acuteness, delicacy, and power, and you can logically conclude that the reality must far surpass our conception.
This law of increase in perfection in form, action, and quality would necessarily apply to the sense of hearing. The spiritual ear would be more nicely and delicately attuned to heavenly concords. How soft and sweet and grand would be the harmonies the unwritten music that would rise and fall and swell upon the ear! Every spiritual object would be capable of finer vibrations, of sending forth a fuller and sweeter tone. Every condition of the outward world, as an instrument, and of the inward world of man's nature for the enjoyment of it, would be greatly increased in every quality of excellence.
Would not these be better and more rational conditions of happiness, more in accordance with human nature, and all known laws and methods of Divine operation, than an empty universe in which formless and substanceless essences flitted about, as mere phantoms in a phantom world?
There is another law of the Divine order which we see in mere outline but in many beautiful forms in this world, which must exist in perfection in the spiritual world, and that is the adaptation, the nice fitting of the outward world to the inhabitants. We see this principle of adaptation in its most general form in the three kingdoms of nature. The fish is perfectly adapted to the water in every part of its structure. The bird, in the same manner, is formed for the air, and the air for the bird. The earth is variously and specifically adapted to the animal. The air is made for the lungs, and the lungs for the air. The eye contains in its little orb all the qualities and motions of the ether. The power which draws people and animals to the earth, and the animal strength to resist it, is perfectly adjusted. If the attraction was much stronger, locomotion would be impossible. If it was much weaker, bodies would be thrown from the earth. Heat and cold are adjusted with the nicest precision to the organization of plants and animals. A diminution would destroy all animal life. The forms and influences of the outward world are in general wonderfully adapted to the tastes and wants of the natural mind.
But still no outward conditions fully satisfy peoplesí tastes and desires,, or even their physical condition. The heat is often too great or too feeble. It is too dry or too wet. How much physical suffering is caused by exposure to changes of climate, exposure to
extremes of temperature, from barren, uncongenial, and repulsive external conditions! The human race wages a perpetual warfare with nature to protect himself from her severities, to secure a comfortable support, and a pleasant habitation. How much delight we derive from pleasant weather! A fresh, balmy, and pure atmosphere is a constant blessing. Men spend immense fortunes and the labor of years to secure a pleasant home with beautiful surroundings. The great part of human labor is employed in gaining sustenance, providing clothing and habitation, overcoming the obstructions of time and space, and in bringing the outward world into harmony with our tastes and desires.
There will be no such difficulties and causes of suffering in the spiritual world. Spiritual substances yield to spiritual forces as material substances yield to material forces. They readily take on the forms of the thought, and the qualities of the desires of the inhabitants, to the fullest extent and in the most minute particulars. The outward world corresponds to the inward world of thought and affection. These two worlds are perfectly adapted too one another. There is no lack and no superfluity. People finds everything congenial to them, and fully adequate to all their mental and spiritual wants. They fully attains what they are constantly striving for in this life. They finds all things in harmony with themselves.
This arises from the fact that the outward world can be created from the inward world. Spiritual substances take on the forms of the thoughts spontaneously, without any effort of the hand to cut and mold them to the ideal. A personís spiritual nature possesses a spiritual force which takes hold of spiritual substances and molds them into the forms of their ideas, as attraction takes hold of water and molds it into drops. Everyone creates their own world. The garments they wear will correspond to their thought. Those garments will be his or her own thoughts in substance, in texture, in color, in fashion, just as our dress would be here if we had unlimited power in the selection of materials, and were compelled to choose the fashion of it for ourselves. This law is not a peculiar one. It is seen everywhere in the material world. As there is something in the nature of a seed which necessitates the form and color of the leaves and blossoms of the plant; as there is something in the nature of every bird and animal which determines the kind, quality, and color of its clothing, whether it shall be scale, or feather, or hair, or fur; whether it shall be red or white, or black or variegated, so there is something in a personís nature which will become their clothing in the spiritual world, where all artificial and merely mechanical laws are abolished, and people come into harmony with all things.
According to this law, a personís house will be the form of his or her thought. It will be their ideal of a dwelling, in situation, in size, in arrangement, in architecture, in ornament, in material, in every particular. It will fit their tastes, and be adequate to their desires, in every respect. The landscape around them will answer to the ideal within them in the same manner. Thus we shall all gain, in the spiritual world, what we are all striving for here, fitness, adaptation to our tastes, perfect equilibrium between the world without and the world within. Our character will create our circumstances. A barren nature will make everything barren around it. If the soil is sterile within, it will be sterile without. If the nature is low and lustful, it will create the stagnant marsh, crawling vipers, and stinging insects. If it is fierce and cruel and treacherous, we shall find ourselves in the midst of plants and animals which are the embodied forms of oar own life. If our natures are rich with heavenly principles, the objective world will form itself into images of corresponding excellence. It will give beauty to our garments, elegance and taste to our dwelling. It will stretch around us in lovely landscapes, and fill them with animal and vegetable forms which are the exponents of our thoughts - which are our thoughts in organic and living forms, as the pictures on the artist's canvas are the forms of his or her thoughts. The birds will sing our affections, the flowers will blossom with the beauty of our souls, and every object will be a mirror in which we can see ourselves.
Such, in brief outline, is the world in which the Lord prepares a place for every human being. We are citizens of that world, and in it we are to find our eternal home. All who have passed away from the earth have been gathered there, and all who will be born in the coming ages will be raised up into it when they cast off the material body. The spiritual world, therefore, must be the theatre of the final Judgment, and of those stupendous changes which are described in the Word, in connection with the Second Coming.
We have now learned that there is a substantial spiritual world, in which all human beings who have begun their existence on the earth, and have passed into it through the gates of death, are now living. We have found where the Judgment is held, and have learned something of the nature of the world in which it is held. We have, therefore, gained the true point of view to understand why the Coming of the Son of Man in the power and glory of spiritual truth should effect a resurrection and a Judgment; what heavens and earth fled away at His coming, and what new heavens and what new earth were created by His presence, and these will be the subjects for our consideration in the discourses which are to follow.